Economic Growth or the Environment? A False Choice

8232The Industrial Revolution ushered in fundamental change. The global economy and prosperity grew exponentially, primarily through the use of vast amounts of fossil fuels.

Science, particularly climate science, has shown that our current course of a fossil-based economy is unsustainable but our society is often presented with a dilemma. Should we continue our exponential economic growth based on fossil fuels and ignore the environment, or should we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the cost of our economic growth?

Arun Majumdar, who once held the title of Vice President for Energy at Google and is now a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Stanford University, argues that this is a false choice because it is based on extrapolating the past and does not account for the capacity of research in science and engineering to create a new industrial revolution for a sustainable energy future.

Majumdar was the founding Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), where he served till June 2012. He looks at some of the research going on around the country that will allow us to support both the undeniable coming population growth and the economic growth we all want. Where will our energy come from in the future and how much will it cost? Solar, wind, biofuels, or something entirely new like tobacco oil? Storage may be the key but we still need to get the cost down and the scale up. And, when we are making the necessary energy what will need to happen to our aging power grid? As Mujumdar says, “If it does not violate the laws of science, we give it a shot.”

The future is upon us. See how we might power it.

Watch Energy and the Industrial Revolution: Past, Present and Future, with Arun Majumdar.

Browse more programs from the Institute for Energy Efficiency.

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